Monday 5 March 2012

Today and Tomorrow the Members of the Illegal Antiquities Network will make their Statements before the Judge

Translated from Greek: Kathimerini, 05.03.2012

The members of the illegal commerce of antiquities network that was dimantled in Northern Greece face heavy charges. A total of 45 people have been arested, including a 66-year old, considered to be the "brain" of the circuit. They were led before the prosecutor of Thessalonike, who pronounced the charges against them, and sent them to make their statements today and tomorrow.

As became known the network - one of the biggest that have been discovered in the country - was centered in Chalkidiki and had representatives in a total of 13 prefectures of Macedonia, Thessaly and Sterea Ellada [Central Greece]. Police authorities, following months of investigations, arrested a total of 45 members of the network and confiscated archaeological treasures of inestimable value that they held, comprised of about 10,000 coins, golden mouth pieces, jewelery, statuettes, byzantine icons and many other items, as well as catalogues of antiquities, metal detectors and weapons.

The "mastermind" of the criminal group is a 66-year old retiree customs-officer from Gerakarou of Thessalonike, who was the recepient of the antiquities. He estimated their value and sent them on to private collectors or auction houses in the USA, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany and Bulgaria. Most of the other members were so-called "searchers", meaning that they carried out illegal digs in agricultural regions of Macedonia and Thessaly, seeking ancient objects to be sent to the chief. These includes retirees, employees from the private and public sectors, and freelancers.

As the Police Chief of Chalkidiki, K. Papoutsis, declared, because they feared that they might be under observation, the accused used code phrases, as "lentiles" for coins, "little Larissas" for objects from Thessaly or "little Philipps" for finds from Macedonia.

In the possetion of those arrested were found and confiscated about 10,000 coins, dated from the 6th century B.C. to the post-byzantine period, mostly bronze, as well as a large number of ancient objects. The authorities spoke of three gold mouth pieces, small statuettes, a large quantity of jewelery, and two byzantine wooden double leaf icons, measuring 37x25 and 14x11 cm, bearing the forms of saints. A silver tetradrachm of the hellenistic period bearing the image of Zeus or Herakles is consider extremely rare.

The research to dismantle the network began in a random manner in the middle of last year, after the mysterious vanishing of a 68-year old who had been the victim of a road accident in Peukochori of Chalkidiki. Police investigation was allowed access to telephone discussions and it was discovered that the man had suspicious phone calls concerning the sale of ancient objects.

The Alexander Tetradrachm
Translated from Greek: Ta Nea, 05.03.2012.

"An exceptionally rare coin of great value, struck by Alexander the Great during the first phase of his reign shortly before he departed for his expedition in Asia (about 336-335 B.C.) at Aigai or Pella" was amongst those confiscated. "If it is authentic it is a coin from the first issues of Alexander" declared to "NEA" the numismatist and epigraphist Giannis Touratsoglou, speaking of the silver tetradrachm of the latest "harvest" from the smuglers in Northern Greece. According to the reference in the latest book by mr Touratsoglou "The economy of the macedonian kingdom", the coin bears the head of Zeus or Hercules (most probably Zeus, as the head is laureate, bearded , but without a lion-skin) and on the other side bears an eagle standing on a thunderbolt.

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